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Author Topic: When I was ten  (Read 1025 times)

Offline dave.woodhall

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When I was ten
« on: November 23, 2020, 04:23:08 PM »
These days a ten year old is lucky if he gets taken to Villa Park for the first time as a birthday treat. But I have a programme from May 1951in which I have underlined presumably the matches I saw just like train numbers. Invariably making my own way to the ground, walking, never paying the halfpenny to go on the bus.

The majority of games seen, it has to be said, were Central League matches. It is invidious of me to try to describe these in any sort of detail, as who can remember things that happened to them in detail at such an age? But with the help of newspapers and the old Villa News I will attempt to allow the season to unfold.

The campaign began with a victory in front of 65,000 at Villa Park, where I would have stood safe leaning against the wall at the back of the Aston End. But in Villa terms it was the ultimate season opener as the victims only came on the 74 and the outer circle buses from as far away as Holyhead Road.

Two days later, such that it was a joint match programme, Sunderland, traditional early season midweek visitors, came to town.  Reports state that it was a ‘classic’ and such was the Villa performance in winning 3-1 that next day newspapers were hailing us a possible champions. But despite drawing the return fixture a week later the prediction proved to be premature in the least. Sandwiched between the two Sunderland was a lacklustre performance at Derby County (2-4) and as the season progressed it turned out this was a greater indication of out true abilities.

We set off on a sequence of nine games without a win (four draws) which caused the editor of the Villa news to stop including the league table in the programme. It took a visit from Newcastle United to cause Tommy Thompson aided by Colin Gibson to show their best from against their former old teammates (3-0). But the tide had not been turned after all. Five winless games followed, adding to the now well-founded truth that Villa never do well in October and November. Victory finally came with the unexpected annihilation of relegation threatened Chelsea (4-2).  A significant win as Chelsea, along with Sheffield Wednesday and Everton were to play out a dramatic end to the season relegation battle beyond the scope of this article.

It was a false dawn, as seven more winless games followed and by third round day everyone was fearful if it was to be 1936 repeated. Back to back wins over Burnley (2-0) in the cup and Fulham (3-0) did little to ease the tension as six consecutive defeats, including at Wolverhampton in round four meant you can search in vain for the league table in the programme – things were that bad.

Finally as ‘summer time’ returned Burnley came to town and provided us with the traditional victory their appearance at Villa Park almost guaranteed. But next it was the 1-2 surrender at Middlesbrough which did it. It is well recorded that on the train home (no private team buses back then, a reserved coach on a train was considered a luxury.) Frank Moss and Robert Daniel Blanchflower (as usual, respect where respect is due) held a council of war and decided that enough was enough. Aston Villa must not be allowed to be relegated again and it was up to the players to make sure they weren't. It must surely have been the ultimate team talk because what happened next still goes down as the greatest revival in the history of the club since the founding members attended their last Wesleyan Men’s Bible class.

An amazing Easter double over Wolverhampton was followed by Sheffield Wednesday being given a thrashing despite the presence in their ranks of the ‘costliest footballer in the world’, Jackie Sewell and we could virtually breathe again.  Six unbeaten games in April; three wins, three draws, and safe with one game still to go the programme editor deigns to include the league table for the first time this year. The final league table shows we finished an unlikely fifteenth place, top of a quartet of teams on 37 points.

Meanwhile my regular attendance at the reserve matches saw completely the reverse of the experience of watching the first eleven.  The reserves fell apart and lost their last five games but still finished runners-up to the then perpetual Central League Champions, Wolverhampton Wanderers. Which is why when in need of a new and better player we always trotted along first to the Molineux.

John Russell.

Offline TopDeck113

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Re: When I was ten
« Reply #1 on: November 23, 2020, 09:18:59 PM »
When's John's book coming out?  I could devour chapters of his supporting memoirs!

Offline BC54 VFC

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Re: When I was ten
« Reply #2 on: November 25, 2020, 11:56:04 AM »
Fascinating and, yes, John definitely needs to write a book.

Offline dave.woodhall

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Re: When I was ten
« Reply #3 on: November 25, 2020, 11:03:31 PM »
Right - who would buy it?

Offline JD

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Re: When I was ten
« Reply #4 on: November 26, 2020, 03:29:33 AM »
I would. Another brilliant article.

John's articles and stories about Villa's history are priceless to us. 


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